At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

An Honest Look at Ron Paul

posted by Jack Kerwick

Commentators continually draw attention to the “steadiness” that Mitt Romney has shown vis-à-vis the GOP presidential primary contest.  Romney, they point out, has “steadily” maintained his first place position.  Yet never do these same commentators point out that for all of the race’s “frontrunners” that have come and gone—Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain—Ron Paul has steadily remained in third or fourth place, depending on the polls. 

In this “An Honest Look At…” series, I have sought to show that in spite of their protestations to the contrary, each of the GOP presidential candidates exhibits a penchant for the ideology of Big Government.  Each is either ignorant of or indifferent to the secret of American liberty, a secret that lies within the fact that our national government is supposed to be a federal government, a government to which our Constitution assigns but a few specific “powers.”

As this final edition of the series establishes, it is in the person of Ron Paul alone that the Republican Party’s rhetoric of liberty becomes incarnate. 

Let’s begin by examining Paul’s positions on domestic policy.

 

Domestic Policy

Abortion

Rick Santorum is widely heralded among the Republican Party faithful as a strong “social conservative.”  For example, Santorum, we constantly hear, is as “principled” and stalwart a defender of the unborn as anyone in contemporary politics.  But Ron Paul has proven himself a tireless champion of the unborn, not just in political life but, more tellingly, as an obstetrician.  Over the span of decades, Dr. Paul delivered over 4,000 babies.  Not once did he so much as entertain the possibility of performing an abortion, and he regularly assisted women in pursuing life-affirming alternatives—like adoption—to the life-denying choice of abortion.

If elected President, Paul would seek to pass a Sanctity of Life Act which would identify conception as the beginning of human life.  He would also “effectively” repeal Roe v. Wade and introduce legislation that would prevent “activist judges from interfering with state decisions on life by removing abortion from federal jurisdiction [.]”  Being the Jeffersonian that he is, Paul agrees with our third President that it is at once “sinful and tyrannical” for anyone, whether individuals or governments, to coerce another to subsidize “the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors.”  So, in order to prevent this “sinful and tyrannical” coercion, Paul has expressed his desire to labor inexhaustibly to end all taxpayer-funded abortion services.

Paul, it should be obvious, is as committed—and consistent—an exponent of both “the right to life” and “the right to liberty.”  In both word and deed, Paul has shown that the two are inseparable.

The Economy

Of his Republican competitors, not one forecasted the economic crisis of 2008.  Ron Paul did.  Moreover, Paul predicted as early on as 2001 that the housing market was headed for a crash, an event that would have dire ramifications for our entire economy.  Unlike some of the other GOP presidential candidates, Paul staunchly opposed TARP and “the bailouts” of which it consisted.  He recognized—and insisted—that the government’s response to the economic crisis was an instance of precisely the sort of intervention in our economy that fueled it to begin with.  Correctly, Paul as well predicted that such intervention, far from abetting this crisis, would actually exacerbate it.

To begin repairing our economy and restoring our lost liberties, Paul suggests some measures that, as President, he promises to appropriate. 

First, he will veto any and all unbalanced budgets that Congress sends to him.

Second, he will steadfastly refuse any proposed increases in the debt ceiling. 

Third, upon insisting upon a “full” audit of the Federal Reserve, President Paul would set his sights on abolishing it.

Fourth, Paul would establish “sound money,” so that our government could never again dream of dramatically debasing the dollar by printing money out of thin air, so speak.

Fifth, Paul advocates the elimination of the income tax, the death tax, and capital gains taxes.  With a President Paul in the White House, Americans would be able to actually keep their legally acquired property.

Sixth, Paul would affect a drastic reduction in gas prices by way of a number of measures.  He would allow off shore drilling, eliminate the highway motor fuel tax, increase the mileage reimbursement rates, and supply tax credits to those utilizing and producing natural gas vehicles.

Seventh, as Investor Business Daily has acknowledged, Paul is the only candidate in the GOP (or, for that matter, the Democratic) field that has shown seriousness regarding spending cuts.  He has released a plan that would cut spending by one trillion dollars, not in ten or twelve or 15 years, but in one year. 

Second Amendment

Congressman Paul is as faithful a friend to Americans’ right to bear arms as any that it has ever had.  He has made legislative proposals to repeal both the Brady Bill as well the ban on “assault weapons.”  Furthermore, Paul has sponsored legislation that would withdrawAmericafrom the United Nations, an international body that has sought to impose “gun control” plans—like “the Small Arms Treaty”—around the world.  Paul, it would appear, has this peculiar notion that it is unconscionable that American taxpayers should be forced to subsidize such efforts.  Finally, Paul authored a bill that would permit airline pilots and other “specially trained law enforcement personnel” to carry fire arms aboard commercial airlines.

 

Foreign Policy

Ron Paul is opposed to all foreign aid.  He discerns no small measure of injustice in an arrangement under which Americans are made to part with their legally acquired earnings in order to fund foreign governments.

As far as national defense is concerned, the conventional wisdom among establishment Republicans is that Ron Paul is something on the order of an appeaser.  However, we needn’t look far to see through this piece of reasoning for the folly that it is.    

First, of the eight GOP presidential candidates, Ron Paul is the only one that has actually served in the military.  Secondly, he routinely receives more in the way of monetary contributions from active-duty military personnel than all of the other candidates—and their Commander-In-Chief—combined.  Third, Ronald Reagan, upon whom Paul’s Republican detractors look as a great “conservative” god of a sort, once remarked of him: “Ron Paul is one of the outstanding leaders fighting for a stronger national defense.  As a former Air Force officer, he knows well the needs of our armed forces, and he always puts them first. We need to keep him fighting for our country.” 

But there is much more to show that not only is Paul not the appeaser that his Republican foes make him out to be; he is actually more serious—much more serious—than are they about national defense.

National defense is the one, the singularly most important, of the federal government’s responsibilities.  This Ron Paul believes firmly.  Thus, he finds it inexcusable that Americans are being compelled to invest billions of dollars annually into protecting the borders of other countries while the borders of their own country remain porous.  Correcting this injustice and devoting the resources of the federal government back to where it belongs—America’s borders—Ron Paul considers the greatest of our nation’s priorities.  

Paul voted in favor of America’s deployment of military force in order to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, as well as other targeted terrorists.  Yet he adamantly rejects as a colossal waste in treasure and blood an interminable “War on Terror” consisting of “the democratization” of the Islamic world and beyond.  “Nation building” is at once unconstitutional and immoral, to say nothing of foolish.

As President, Ron Paul would indeed continue in pursuit of those who would do America harm. But to this end he would employ only those means that our Constitution accommodates.  This, in turn, implies that the Patriot Act would be put swiftly out to pasture.  It also implies that America’s days of waging undeclared wars would just as rapidly come to an end.

 

Conclusion

If Republicans, Tea Partiers, and self-avowed conservatives are truly serious about wanting a presidential candidate who is thoroughly committed to restoring and preserving liberty, then Ron Paul is their candidate—their only candidate.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published in The New American

An Honest Look at Jon Huntsman

posted by Jack Kerwick

Former Utahgovernor Jon Huntsman has just barely been able to have his voice heard in the Republican Party’s presidential primary race, so low are his polling numbers.  Yet, still, he is a candidate that, not unlike every other such candidate, proudly proclaims his commitment to liberty and, hence, “limited government.” 

But is Huntsman really who he claims to be? 

This is the question with which we must concern ourselves.  Yet as we will see, just a brief look at Huntsman’s utterances and deeds discloses in no time that, in his case, appearance is eons apart from reality.

To Huntsman’s credit, as governor ofUtahhe presided over tax cuts—sales taxes especially—and a simplification of the overall tax code.  For this, the Cato Institute lavished praise upon him.  Yet lest we hastily exploit this fact as proof of his commitment to smaller government, we would be well served to note that the very same libertarian-friendly think tank criticized Huntsman for having “completely dropped the ball on spending, with per capita spending increasing at about 10 percent annually during his tenure.” 

Huntsman believes in “global warming,” and in 2007 he combined forces with the governors of others states to sign the Western Climate Initiative, a bill oriented toward reducing the generation of greenhouse gasses.  This, it is worth observing, would have been bad enough if it was just a matter of the governments of individual states asserting their sovereignty over an issue.  But Huntsman does not have the “states’ rights” card at his disposal in this case.  As it turns out, he appeared in an ad for the organization Environmental Defense, an ad in which he demanded that the federal government “act by capping greenhouse-gas pollution.” 

That Huntsman has now retreated from this position seems more than coincidental.  However, his stated reason for revising his earlier view is telling: “Much of this discussion [concerning ‘Cap-and-Trade’] happened before the bottom fell out of the economy, and until it comes back, this isn’t the moment [for ‘Cap-and-Trade’]” (emphases mine). 

Notice, for Huntsman, the problem with so-called “Cap-and-Trade” hasn’t anything whatsoever to do with liberty; the problem—presumably, the only problem that would prevent us from pursuing this policy—is that we lack the material resources to effectively implement it. “Five years ago” we could afford to permit the federal government to conscript American taxpayers into the service of subsidizing this gargantuan policy; today we cannot.  However, once our economy bounces back, we will then be able to afford it once more!

On immigration, Huntsman is no different from his colleague and rival, Rick Perry.  Perry, everyone now knows, permitted illegal aliens pursuing a higher education at any of Texas’s public universities and colleges to pay in-state tuition rates.  Less well known is that Huntsman was equally generous with the resources of Utah’s citizens toward the illegal aliens in his state.  As Governor, he promised to veto any bill that would deprive the illegal residents of Utah of the benefit of in-state tuition rates should they go to college.  Huntsman also signed a bill granting illegal aliens “driving-privilege cards.”  Under this bill,Utah’s illegal residents would be permitted to obtain driving “privileges,” but they would not be permitted to use these licenses as forms of identification.

American liberty is inseparable from the rule of law.  Indeed, without the rule of law, there is no liberty.  Those who would govern should know this better than anyone.  Thus, when someone, like Huntsman, who is entrusted with the heavy responsibility of safeguarding the law not only fails to do so but actively undercuts it, he reveals himself to be a threat to our liberty. 

More recently, Huntsman expressed his desire to break apart our nation’s largest financial institutions, those banks that the conventional wisdom deems “too big to fail.”  That this is no mere desire on his part, that it is something to which he has given considerable thought, is born out by the fact that he has actually designed a plan to bring it about.  According to Huntsman, the only way we can avoid taxpayer-subsidized bank bailouts of the sort to which we were subjected in 2008 is to legislate out of existence these banks that are, supposedly, “too big to fail.”  Because, in his estimation, the banks at present remain “too big to fail,” the bailouts of 2008 were necessary. 

Given these aspects of Jon Huntsman’s record, it is no wonder that the left-leaning Huffingtonpost described him as a Republican “with moderate positions who was willing to work substantively with” President Obama.

As far as his approach to foreign policy is concerned, although it is true that he opposes the Patriot Act and seeks to bring American military personnel home from the Middle East sooner rather than later, it would be a mistake to conclude from this that Huntsman is any less of an “interventionist” than his more hawkish Republican colleagues.  Prior to being confirmed as President Obama’s Ambassador toChina, Huntsman promised that, if his confirmation went through, he would see to it that there would be “robust engagement” with China vis-à-vis the issue of “human rights.”  He also advocates an American/China alliance to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Our analysis need go no further, for our conclusion is inescapable: Jon Huntsman is an apostle of Big Government.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published in The New American 

 

 

 

 

An Honest Look at Rick Santorum

posted by Jack Kerwick

Rick Santorum is widely heralded as a real “conservative.”  Rush Limbaugh has praised him on the air, on multiple occasions, and another nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Bill Bennett, has had Santorum guest host for him regularly.  To hear the Limbaughs and Bennetts of our generation tell it, a real “conservative” is one who favors “limited” or “constitutional government” and “individualism.”  Thus, presumably, Santorum must be an enemy of just the sort of Big Government ideology to which Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are beholden.

But is this correct?  A look at Santorum’s positions on the issues of the day readily reveals that his rhetoric and the rhetoric of the party of which he has been a fixture for decades aside, Santorum is no less a champion of Big Government than President Obama himself.

For one, Santorum is as vocal a supporter of “the War on Terror” as anyone.  This in and of itself tells us about all that we need to know about his view of government.  As Ron Paul has pointed out to the former Pennsylvaniasenator, terror is a means to an end, a tactic.  It makes as much sense to speak of waging a war on terror, then, as it makes sense to speak of waging a war on guns or other instruments.  In all fairness, in spite of his continual use of the language of “the War on Terror,” Santorum concedes the soundness of Paul’s position.  Yet he maintains that we are, nevertheless, in a real war, but it is a war, not on terror as such, but against the terror of “Islamists” or “Radical Islamic Extremists.”

Three observations are here in order.

First, the distinction that Westerners insist on drawing between “Radical Muslims” and “moderate Muslims,” or “Islamism” and “Islam,” is the offspring of the union between considerations of political expediency, on the one hand, and those of wishful thinking, on the other.  It is, of course, true that not all Muslims wish non-Muslims harm; but as Brigitte Gabriel and other students of Islamic and Middle Eastern affairs know all too well, the taxonomy in terms of which Westerners seek to characterize Muslims is nowhere to be found within the Islamic self-understanding.  And what this in turn in means is that whether Santorum supports a war on terror or a war on “Islamist,” he supports a war without end.  Terror, like greed, will always be with us, and since “Islamists” are at bottom orthodox Muslims, a war on them is nothing more or less than a war on Muslims.  Since there are over a billion Muslims worldwide, a war on Muslims, like a war on “terror,” is also a war without end.   

Second, war is the Tree of Life for government.  It is the Mother of all crises, the Emergency of all emergencies.  Libertyis always a precarious thing, but never is its condition more precarious, more imperiled, than during war.  Now, when this war is a war in perpetuity, liberty doesn’t stand a chance, for the war will serve as an all purpose pretext for all manner of measures designed to grow the federal government ever more.

Third, however undesirable any war may be, in our Constitutional Republic, wars must be declared.  That is, our Constitution requires that before our government embarks our country upon a war, the United States Congress must issue a formal declaration.  This, though, it has not done with respect to “the War on Terror” or “the War on Islamism” or whatever Santorum and his colleagues are calling it these days.  Nor, for that matter, have they so much as indicated a desire to do so.

Importantly, Santorum is a self-avowed proponent of “Compassionate Conservatism.”  This too tells us all that we need to know about his stance on government. 

In 2005 Santorum gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation in which he argued passionately for this ideology of Big Government.  An excerpt from the speech was subsequently published at Townhall.com.  “If government is to be effective,” Santorum asserts, “charities, houses of worship, and other civil institutions” have to be, not just “respected,” but “nurtured” (emphasis mine).  And because “Compassionate Conservatism” is “founded on an inviolable belief in humanity’s inherent dignity,” respect for the sanctity of human life means that “ending genocide, international sex trafficking and the oppression of minority groups, and promoting the respect for religious freedom around the world will always be top priorities” for the United States government (emphasis mine).       

“Compassionate Conservatism” is oriented toward helping “the poor and [those] hurting for help, whether they are across the street or across an ocean” (emphasis mine).  Thus, Santorum proudly proclaims, he and his colleagues in the Senate have assembled “a domestic anti-poverty agenda” to help the poor here at home.  Yet they also are busy at work to help the poor around the world.  Santorum states that “AIDS has seared Africa into our moral vision.” Apparently, not only is it “morally right” to care “for the sick and dying in Africa,” it is also “geopolitically prudent; if we don’t help, someone else will and that someone else may not be friendly to our interests.”  How do “we” care for “the poor and dying in Africa?”  Santorum’s answer is to the point: “We need to embrace the challenge to dedicate a larger percentage of our GDP to foreign aid” (emphasis mine) [.]

“Compassionate Conservatism” is about “changing the role of government in our lives.”  To this end, we should be “not only cutting old, tired programs, but also advancing new initiatives like the CARE Act [.]”  The latter is “a bold package of expanded charitable-giving incentives that supports faith-based and community organizations” (emphases added). 

Santorum readily acknowledges that “this agenda will require a role for government that some conservatives find disquieting.”  But he assures us “that [this] is a discomfort worth confronting.”

From his endorsement of Mitt Romney in the 2008 GOP presidential primaries to his endorsement of Arlen Specter in the latter’s senate race against the much more conservative Pat Toomey, from Santorum’s sponsorship of the “Iran Freedom and Support Act”—a bill that sought to transfer ten million dollars to Iran for purposes of “regime change”—to his insistence that we must actually enlarge our troop presence throughout the world, there is much more that can be said regarding Santorum’s attachment to Big Government.

But, hopefully, enough has already been said to establish that Santorum is a champion of Big Government through and through.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American

An Honest Look at Rick Perry

posted by Jack Kerwick

Governor Rick Perry, so goes the conventional wisdom, is a real conservative.  How could he not be?  After all, his three terms as governor of Texas has marked a period of spectacular job creation.  It has been said that nearly 40% of all jobs in the United States at present are to be found in the lone star state.   In addition to this consideration, there are several others to substantiate the pervasive belief that, from the conservative Republican’s perspective, Perry is the genuine article. 

If we are to accept Republican Party rhetoric of “constitutionalism,” “limited government,” “individualism,” etc., then what we must determine is whether Perry is the partisan of liberty that, presumably, Republicans should want as their party’s presidential nominee and, ultimately, their president.  It is to the end of making this determination that we shall now look at some highlights from Perry’s political career.

Domestic Policy

Taxes

The Club for Growth—an organization dedicated to the lowering of taxes and tax rates, the reduction of spending, and, in short, greater economic liberty and prosperity—generally regards Perry’s record as Texas governor favorably.  Yet it also is quick to point out that it is not without its fair share of blemishes.

For instance, in 1987, while still a Democratic Congressman (itself a telling tidbit), Perry voted in favor of the largest tax increase, not just in the history of Texas, but in that of the United States, up until that juncture.

To the objection that this was when Perry was a Democrat and, thus, it doesn’t count, a reply is ready at hand.  As recently as 2003, well after Perry became a Republican and after he was elected governor, he issued his first budget.  While he did cut spending and did not raise taxes, he elicited billions of dollars in revenue by way of a complex of “‘revenue adjustments, surcharges, and fees’” on an assortment of services.  As the Club for Growth notes, these fees are not equivalent to increases in taxes, “but they are anti-growth and serve the same purpose of funding government.

But there are other spots on Perry’s record.

In 2006, Perry advanced an ambitious property tax-cut proposal.  To insure that his proposal would become law, he is also lent his support to a “gross receipts tax”—a tax on the gross revenues of Texas corporations.  The corporate income tax may have been eliminated, but this new tax “‘nearly tripled the amount that Tex as collected from businesses.’”  According to the Cato Institute, although Perry’s bill supplied property owners with relief, it “really socked it to businesses.”  Moreover, it “centralizes fiscal power at the state level, which will encourage government growth in the long run by stifling local tax competition.” 

Spending

Perry is a mixed bag on spending as well.

While his “record on spending generally reveals fiscally conservative tendencies,” Perry has “created well-intentioned, but misguided state-funded subsidy programs to attract corporations to Texas,” a move on his part that “again indicate that Perry doesn’t necessarily fully rely on free-market principles when he makes economic decisions.”  Club for Growth reports that Perry “aggressively used government spending to attract jobs toTexas” (emphasis mine).  The Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund are two robust economic development initiatives that Perry signed into law.   The problem is that “initiatives like these, often supported by big business, create huge market distortions in a place that should naturally be a nationwide leader in attracting jobs.” 

To put it simply, Perry has proven himself to be a proponent of corporate welfare.  As Club for Growth states, Perry’s “gimmicky subsidies” implies that he “is more pro-business than he is pro-free markets.”

In his book, Fed Up! Perry objects to the federal government’s several failed attempts to address the economic crisis of 2008.  However, as Club for Growth observes, he also intimates reluctant support for such measures—as long as they are “temporary.”  President Bush may have initiated the expansion of government power over the economy, but, as Bush himself famously (notoriously?) said, he “abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”  That is, because government intervention courtesy of Republican President Bush was only meant to be for a limited time to address a crisis, it may be necessary.  But Democratic President Obama seeks to make such intervention “permanent”–and this is bad.

As far as entitlements, Perry’s work at trimming them down has been not altogether unsuccessful.  Yet it isn’t just congratulations that he his owed.  As the Governor of Texas, Perry couldn’t resist trying to impose a mandate on insurance companies that would have required them to offer a specific prescription drug plan.

It is also important to recall that while Perry was a candidate for Agriculture Commissioner in 1990, he advocated price supports for farmers.

Other Issues

That Perry is most definitely not the champion of liberty that he makes himself out to be is also born out by two other highly significant facts. 

First, as governor of Texas, Perry permitted illegal aliens to pursue a higher education for the same tuition price charged to the state’s legal residents—a decision that amounted to the decision to grant a de facto amnesty. 

Secondly—and this is particularly disturbing—Perry attempted, by way of executive order, to impose a vaccination upon young girls—whether they or their parents wanted it or not.  That is, in order to get his way, Perry sought to circumvent the legislature.

Foreign Policy

Perry’s foreign policy stance is not easy to differentiate from that of every other establishment Republican. He supports “the War on Terror,” specifically, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he is a stalwart defender ofIsrael.  Considering that Perry has never so much as come close to signaling a desire to alter the current relationship between America and Israel, it is most reasonable to conclude that he wishes to continue subsidizing the latter via American foreign aid.

Conclusion

There is only so much that can be said about Perry within the little amount of time available to say it.  Hopefully, what has been said here is sufficient to establish that Rick Perry, like the Republican Party to which he belongs, is bewitched by an ideology of Big Government.    

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American

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